A Full House and a Great Party

A Full House and a Great Party

Jesus the party planner. We know that Jesus is the host of the heavenly banquet. Who will he invite to that feast? Well, a clue… Who did he hang out with when he wined and dined on earth? Who did he enjoy rubbing shoulders with when breaking bread? Looking at his earthly guest list will help us figure out his heavenly list, since there’s nothing like a party to reveal the heart of the host.

One thing for sure, when we ask Jesus to be our party planner, we’re in for a few surprises. We’ll be serving appetizers to scandalous outsiders and sexual offenders. We’ll be filling the water glasses of Roman sympathizers and religious half-breeds. We’ll be offering dessert to wayfaring strangers who have no way to invite you back. And our serving table better be handicap accessible, because Jesus will go to every group home in town and hand out personal invitations to everyone who has a disability. Magnanimous, thy name is Jesus. With him, the outcasts become the in-crowd. All those who live on the margins will find themselves smack in the middle of mercy and conviviality.

Forgetting his questionable guest list for a minute, think about his unlikely guests of honor. He wouldn’t hesitate to have dinner with a compromising scoundrel who would cheat his own people. He’d want to celebrate with a lowly shepherd after finding his lost sheep. Or a humble woman who finally found her long-lost coin. Perhaps most surprising of all, he would have no problem hosting a village feast to honor a runaway son who just squandered his whole inheritance. The bigger the screw-up, the better the feast. The more humble the person, the more extravagant the party. Jesus was one big welcome mat, intentionally inviting all the undeserving into his life of love and joy and forgiveness. With Jesus, it’s always Open House.

He told a story once, about a certain man who wanted to throw a big banquet. He sent out invitations to his friends, which were then accepted. On the day of the feast the meat is grilled, the food is prepared, the pillows are fluffed, and the guests arrive. As they are seated around the table, the host encourages all to begin the feast. But all of a sudden, the guests turn the table, offering weak excuses and then walking out the door, one by one. One guest mutters that he just bought some farmland and he wants to go have his first look. Another says he bought a yoke of oxen and wants to see if they actually work together. A third whispers he was just married and he’ll be busy for a while. One has a reasonable suspicion that the landowner probably got a good look at the land before he bought it, that the farmer most likely observed the oxen before he bought them, and the newlywed has already had his honeymoon. All their excuses were insulting, hurtful, and unacceptable. So these friends, familiar with the host, in the end rejected his invitation to be a part of his life, his world. It actually looks like these so-called friends in Jesus’ story wanted to shut down the party as they rejected the host.

As the story continues, the host of the banquet was understandably miffed. My life of love is an open book, spits out the host, and they slammed the book shut!They could have had everything, including my friendship, he says, and they turned their backs! So the angry host decides to make a second guest list, right on the spot. He sends out invitations to precisely those who are never invited to anything, no less a huge feast like this one. So through the door come the residents of the rescue mission and the local nursing home, then come the students from the school for the blind, and then those in creaky wheelchairs and aluminum walkers. The rejected host is now accepted as he opens the door wide to all who have been rejected just like him. The host turns his anger into grace. But wait, the story isn’t finished. He finds that there is still plenty of room for more, and he wants a full house! So he sends out even more invitations, this time asking complete strangers, the immigrants and aliens, the homeless travelers, who probably need to be convinced that, yes, they really are invited to the feast. Soon enough the house is full and everyone is seated and the party can begin. Jesus says that his kingdom looks like that, and we respond with, May your kingdom come!

But what about that first guest list, the ones who knew and yet rejected the host? Generous and forgiving to the end, we can guess what the host must have done, don’t we. He leaves his party, goes outside, hunts down those who insulted him and gives each guest another try. And this is what he tells them, pleading for openness: “Please don’t be standing here outside of my house. Please don’t reject me and my life. We have been friends a long time, you even know my family. You know so much about me, enough to realize that everything I have is yours. Don’t leave. Come to my banquet. I’ll make room.” Sadly there will be some who stubbornly maintain their distance, becoming in the end the true outsiders. Jesus the party planner, whose heart is as big as the world, and whose banquet hall always has room for more.

For some reason, the religious folks didn’t like this story much.

One Reply to “A Full House and a Great Party”

  1. “The host turned his anger into grace.” What a great reminder of what heaven will truly look like. It is not a competition filled with the people who appear to be the “best” Christians. Rather, it will be filled with those who truly need Christ and live a life in awe, never to turn down an opportunity to be with him.

    It is easy to sit in self pity, convincing yourself you “deserve” better. It is easy to lost in the responsibilities of life, especially when you have been blessed multiple times. However, we must never lose our “awe” of Christ. Heaven will not be a bunch of successful, wealthy, beautiful people who donated to the right charities. Rather it will be the humble who will attend Christ’s feast.

    Great post, I also enjoy reason your thoughts!